New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 March 2018
MBS, Trump and ‘The Art of the Deal’
By Faisal J. Abbas
A New Cold War between Russia and UK
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
60 Minutes with Mohammed Bin Salman
By Abdullah Bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
To Our Friends: The United States of America and Its People
By Faisal Al-Shammeri
As A White Helmet, I Ask For Safe Passage from Ghouta
By Raed Al-Saleh
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
It might have been an unusually cold, rainy afternoon in Washington, but inside the White House a very warm meeting took place between President Donald J. Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
For weeks, the US capital has been abuzz with speculation and opposing viewpoints on the heir to the Saudi throne’s visit. However, unlike the questionable policies of the Obama administration, President Trump has made it his mission to put “America First” — and seems to have quickly realized that this can’t be accomplished without the support of the US’ oldest Middle Eastern ally, Saudi Arabia.
“A lot of (American) people are at work” because of Saudi Arabia’s business, Trump said during the meeting, adding that the Kingdom has finalized $12.5 billion in purchases of planes, missiles and frigates from US companies.
For his part, Crown Prince Mohammed reemphasized the 80-year alliance, and the “really deep” relationship Riyadh enjoys with the US, as he elaborated that the Saudis are considering $400 billion in US investment opportunities.
Yet, it is not only American jobs that Saudi Arabia is saving, but American lives as well. The other overriding takeaway of the Trump-MBS meeting was the combined commitment to combatting terrorism, be it on the ideological or financial level.
Of course, most US officials know very well that any effort against extremism requires the religious backing and military might of Riyadh. Mr. Trump sampled this first hand when he visited Riyadh — on his first foreign trip as US President — last May.
At the time, Saudi Arabia brought in heads of states of more than 50 Arab and Muslim countries and also demonstrated the capabilities of its new Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC). President Trump would have also seen the first signs of the massive transformation the Kingdom is going through under its ambitious — and rapidly unfolding — Vision 2030 reform plan.
While the reform goals and pace have had their fair share of scrutiny, the one strategic aspect that nobody can deny is Vision 2030’s brilliance in turning a serious and imminent issue (falling oil prices, a growing population) into an attractive opportunity — thus creating a win/win situation for everyone involved.
For instance, while the geopolitical realities of the Kingdom mean it needs to continue spending on enhancing its military, under the Vision international suppliers are required to produce some components locally in the Kingdom. The drive will create 40,000 Saudi jobs and localize 50 percent of military spending by 2030.
Furthermore, the combination of a business-orientated US administration and a serious, dynamic Saudi leadership means that the climate could not be any better for investment.
MBS’ statement during the meeting that the original plan to tackle $200 billion of opportunities in the next two years ended up rising to $400 billion — with an overall implementation of 35 percent already achieved — only sets out to reemphasize the opportunity.
Some pundits may mistakenly brush off such efforts as a PR stunt or an attempt to “buy love.” However, this couldn’t be any further away from the truth. After all, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) is not in the business of wasting money; quite the contrary, it aims to invest money where it feels there will be the highest returns needed to help diversify our economy away from oil. American start-ups and established businesses have a big chance of benefiting from this and should seize this strategic window of opportunity, for chances like these do not occur often.
WHERE will the case of the alleged use of poison gas against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal take the relations between Britain and Russia? As Britain sought the support of all the Western countries on the issue, it is not certain whether the issue would further exacerbate or not. These countries were quick in coming out in support of their ally, even though it was in varying degrees. Despite giving full support to its ally, France and Germany are not in favor of allowing the case reaching such a stage of escalation by giving hints that they are awaiting the outcome of the investigation.
As for the United States, it has been quick to respond with imposing sanctions on Russia. The US attributed its swift action to Russia’s intervention in the US presidential elections that brought President Donald Trump to the White House. On its part, Russia described the British actions as provocative and vowed to respond appropriately.
There would be logic in asking who will be the beneficiary when such a crime was committed, especially in the case of the Russian double agent Skripal, who was spying for the erstwhile Soviet Union in the past and was later hired by Britain to work for it. When it was discovered, he was imprisoned in Russia.
He was freed from captivity as a result of a deal clinched between Britain and Russia, and consequently he moved to Britain to live in a small British city of Salisbury along with his daughter Yulia. They are critically ill after having been poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent known as novichok, developed by Soviet Union. The bitter row that broke out between Russia and Britain following this incident brought back the memories of the Cold War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had been busy with his electioneering, and he was not keen to be drawn in this controversy before the completion of the election process in which he could score a big victory. The Russian government denied its involvement in the incident and in the beginning; Kremlin expressed its willingness to take part in the investigation and asked to send a sample of gas used to poison the double agent. But the British Prime Minister Theresa May reacted to it with a warning that Moscow should explain how a Russian government-manufactured nerve agent came to be used in an attack against Skripal and his daughter, and she gave only a few hours to meet her demand.
When the deadline was over, she announced at the House of Commons that the Kremlin was culpable for the nerve agent attack and that the government was expelling 23 Russian diplomats. She told the parliament that the Russian diplomats had been identified as “undeclared intelligence officers” and must leave the UK within a week.
May also revoked an invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit the UK and suspended high-level contacts between the two countries, including a boycott of the World Cup in Russia this summer by ministers and members of the royal family. “Britain will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents,” she said.
Britain also took the issue to the Security Council where the British envoy said that Russia was “in serious breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention through its failure to declare the novichok program.” In a tit-for-tat move, Russia also announced expulsion of similar number of British diplomats. The Russian authorities also ordered the closure of the UK’s consulate in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Moscow.
For its part, the United States representative Nikki Haley said that her government believes that the Russian government is responsible for the poisoning of the double agent and announced solidarity with Britain, saying: “This is a defining moment. Time and time again, member states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance.” “Now, one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable.”
The French ambassador at the UN made a similar declaration backing the UK position, offering “the full support and complete solidarity of France for the UK”. “We have reached a new stage: the use of a substance never declared to the OPCW used in a public area in the territory of a European country,” he said.
This was followed by a joint statement of the leaders of UK allies, affirming that there was no plausible alternative explanation for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The leaders said they “abhorred” the Salisbury incident, and the involvement of the Russian-made novichok “constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war. It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention and a breach of international law,” their statement said.
All this showed how successful British PM May in convincing the people in Britain and its Western allies about the involvement of Russia in the poisoning incident. They also linked the Skripal issue to what is happening in Syria, considering Russia and President Putin protecting the Syrian regime accused of using chemical weapons in the Eastern Ghouta.
There could be another beneficiary for the row between Russia and Britain and that is Georgia. The relations between Russia and Georgia worsened after Russia’s annexation of Crimea under the pretext that Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev had illegally granted it to Ukraine. During the Russian sponsored referendum held two years ago, the majority of people in the Crimean peninsula decided in favor of joining back Russia and this infuriated Ukraine and the Western countries.
Since the nerve agent used to poison Skripal and his daughter was developed in the erstwhile Soviet Union, why could it have not been used by one of the agents of Ukraine to create a problem between Britain and Russia, thus settling scores with Russia on the Crimean issue at a time when Moscow considered this issue as a resolved one.
60 Minutes with Mohammed bin Salman
By Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi
20 March 2018
During his interview with “60 Minutes” that airs on the American CBS television network, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “If Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” and that Khamenei is “the new Hitler.” He also said: “Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia” as its army is not” among the top five armies in the Muslim world.” He added that the kingdom’s economy is larger than the Iranian economy and that “Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.” The interview was aired right before he kicked off his tour to the US where he is set to meet with President Donald Trump.
This young prince and inspiring leader has become the world’s talk and the center of attention of leaders he met or dealt with. World leaders know well that the crown prince is a man of his word and a man of action. He makes decisions that harmonize with his statements and translates his visions into tangible projects. CBS once described him as one of the most powerful leaders in the Middle East. What many observers do not know is that he was described as such before he even began implementing his ambitious political and economic plans.
Leader of Major Reforms
During his visit to Washington, he would be representing Saudi Arabia with all its political, economic, Arab and Islamic weight. He’d also be representing most Gulf, Arab and Muslim countries especially that he leads two efficient military alliances which are the alliance in support of legitimacy in Yemen and the Islamic coalition to combat terrorism. He is also the leader of Saudi Arabia’s military forces as he is the kingdom’s minister of defence. The Saudi kingdom is the US’ strongest ally in the US-led alliance which eliminated ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
He is leading major reforms on all fronts, from combating terrorism and extremism to eliminating corruption, empowering women and creating the future. The kingdom’s officials and ministers are working around the clock to accomplish the devised plans. The sky is the limit as he once said. Everyone thus knows what he’s capable of doing.
This is not exaggerated praise, and my statements do not aim to serve any flattering purposes. These are all clear facts. Some media outlets and think tanks in the West and the US may take a long time to comprehend all this considering the crown prince’s speed and pace in fulfilling these accomplishments on the domestic, regional and international levels.
There is no room for improvisation as there’s always a plan. The crown prince recently visited Britain and Egypt, the largest political and economic Arab ally to Saudi Arabia. His visit to Egypt reflected that he had a complete plan that serves the kingdom’s interests and enhances its future. He signed plenty of major agreements during these two visits. This will also be the case when he tours the US which he’s visiting after building strong ties with President Trump as he was the first Arab or Muslim leader to meet him after he was elected and convinced him to go to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign tour. His visit to Washington comes at the same time when Trump is in great harmony with the Department of State after Mike Pompeo, the former CIA chief, was appointed Secretary of State after Rex Tillerson was fired.
When devising his vision to transfer the country’s economy from a rentier economy that relies on oil to a productive economy that attracts international investments, he adopted an out-of-the-box idea which is listing Aramco for initial public offering (IPO). World leaders have thus sought to develop ties with him and with the kingdom as for example Trump and others publicly voiced their desire to list IPO stocks in their stock markets.
Reducing Iran’s Expansionist Influence
The biggest crisis in the Middle East is the Iranian project. The crown prince had said that he adopted a tight plan to reduce Iran’s expansionist influence. He besieged Iran in many of its influence zones across the world, not just in Arab countries which Tehran directly interfered in but also in other countries in Africa and Central Asia.
If an American who’s interested in the region’s affairs does a quick search about the region, he will immediately realize that Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. There is actually a huge difference between Saudi Arabia which is heading towards the future and towards more international cooperation and Iran which is witnessing intense conflicts between its powers, such as the institution of the supreme guide who belongs to the past and who is deluded by expansionist ambitions, the revolutionary guards who are corrupt adventurers and the presidency that claims it believes in reform when all it can do is defend the mistakes of the former and stronger two institutions. Meanwhile, Iran is also witnessing popular protests that continue to escalate and intensify.
The crown prince’s visit to the US also comes at a time when all of his opponents’ projects are failing. They are failing thanks to his vision and plans. The Iranian project, the Turkish fundamentalist project and the small Qatari project are failing. Saudi Arabia is entering history as a winning knight that’s making the future. The kingdom which was accused of terrorism and extremism is leading an international campaign to combat terrorism and spread tolerance, co-existence and peace.
Saudi Arabia does not want nuclear weapons but it will develop them if Iran does. It did not seek the war in Yemen but it was compelled to engage in it and it’s wisely managing towards achieving victory. It’s building new and efficient relations with Iraq and Lebanon, and it’s the biggest supporter of the Palestinian cause and the Syrian people and of the stability of states across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. This is the crown prince’s policy that has the full support of Saudi King Salman.
The crown prince is executing his vision according to the highest international political, economic, military and financial standards. A recent UN Security Council presidential statement on Yemen commended Saudi Arabia’s role. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund support his reform plans while media outlets and humanitarian institutions praise his decisions and vision.
Saudi Arabia does not desire a new cold war in the region or the world; however, if imposed on it, it’s completely ready to protect its interests, select its allies and create its future.
Prince Mohammed is an ambitious leader who has achieved solid victories and who dreams of a bright future. His Washington tour will thus mark the beginning of a new phase in the history of the region and the world.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established on September 23, 1932 in a far different world than we see today. One that even with the benefit of hindsight few people today would be able to comprehend with true understanding.
Founded at the height of the age of empires and during the depths of the Great Depression. When Adolph Hitler was on the ascendancy in Germany and his National Socialist German Workers Party was on the verge of assuming power.
The year of 1932 is when Joseph Stalin was truly beginning the implementation of his quest for total and absolute power inside Russia which would later culminate in the Great Purge. The previous year before the founding of Saudi Arabia, the initial foreshadowing of World War II was just beginning to show itself in Northeast Asia with The Empire of Japan’s invasion and conquest of Chinese Manchuria.
At this time the League of Nations, the first attempt to establish a forum for global cooperation, would begin a process that would lead to organizational failure and in the end a place in the history books. Economic collapse, unemployment, hunger, despair, and uncertainty would’ve abounded in the Western World while international commerce would come to a grinding halt.
The beginning of the ascendancy for the belligerent, revisionist and authoritarian powers would see them take their initial steps in their respective bids for global domination brought by imperial conquest obtained by the sword. That would’ve been the composite picture of the world when Saudi Arabia was founded by King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud.
The country founded in this tumultuous year of 1932 would ultimately outlast Lenin’s Bolshevik Russia, the 1000 year Reich of Hitler’s Germany, the British Empire, and even the ensuing Cold War that followed World War II. Like other countries, Saudi Arabia would have its own arc in history and it would be a surprising one. It is here the story begins.
In November 1931, United States extended full diplomatic recognition to Saudi Arabia, which had been the hope of King Abdulaziz, and in November 1931 this would also include favoured nation status as well.
In May 1933, the California Arabian Standard Oil Company began to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia and thanks to the great efforts of our American friends was subsequently found. On February 16th, 1943 President Roosevelt stated that “the defence of Saudi Arabia is vital for the defence of the United States” which began to deepen the relationship between the two countries.
Where this relationship truly began to grow is at the Yalta Conference on the Crimea Peninsula in February 1945. The famous conference where British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt would meet to decide post-war Europe and the future conduct of the yet unfinished part of World War II which was still raging in The Pacific.
History remembers the picture of these three leaders sitting alongside one another for the press at Yalta. However, it is at Yalta where another meeting would take place. It is here where President Roosevelt would meet with King Abdulaziz aboard The USS Quincy on February 14th, 1945. It is at Yalta where the first links in the US-Saudi relationship would be strategically connected forming the basis for what would become one of the most important relationships in the world.
Of all the meetings and topics of discussion at Yalta among the leaders of the victorious Allied Powers this meeting of President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz would result in a geopolitical reality that exists to this very day. The post-war realities of Central and Eastern Europe, and the subsequent Cold War between the superpowers would come and go including its Iron Curtain but not the relationship between Washington and Riyadh. It would outlast everything discussed at Yalta.
During the Cold War and afterward our two countries shared the same strategic concerns. Saudi Arabia was staunchly opposed to the spread of communism and worked with the United States to achieve this mutually shared objective. During the First Gulf War Saudi Armed Forces conducted bombing raids inside Iraq and committed ground forces alongside the US to support the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait.
We believe in stability of oil prices and investment in the economies of Western Countries, like the US. We believe in investing in Western countries not only for the opportunities they present but to support the strategic partners of Washington as well. We believe in protecting the security of international commerce at sea and the freedom of navigation everywhere in the world, like the US.
We believe in taking a proactive posture in the fight against terrorism and the terrorists who use this sadistic instrument to achieve their nefarious aims, like the United States. Terrorists who threaten Americans and the Western world threaten the well-being of Saudi citizens as well, along with the Muslim World and humanity as a whole.
We have long believed in the warmth and upright character of the American people and the value provided by American educators where we send the majority of our sons and daughters to receive higher education. Currently we have the fourth largest group of foreign-born students currently studying in the United States.
We trust the American people with their safety and are grateful to not only have these expectations consistently met without worry, but to witness with our own eyes their growth they are able to demonstrate here when they return home. Very few people, if any, at the time of Yalta would’ve taken the bet if you had told them that this friendship which was truly struck aboard the USS Quincy between President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz would’ve resulted in what we see today.
If we had told our grandparents and great grandparents then what American-Saudi relationship would be today it would’ve been very difficult to impress upon them this reality of this future.
Today American Presidents come to visit Riyadh as partners of the highest strategic order, for both sides. In the 21st Century Saudi Arabia finds itself at the very forefront of the global community with a large presence in the region and beyond. We are the only Arab country with membership in the G-20.
Bridge to Asia
Today we are the bridge from Europe into the Middle East and beyond to Asia itself. We express a great deal of gratitude to the United States and the American people who have been invaluable friends to us during our rise.
Saudi Arabia is one of the first and initial signatories of the United Nations Charter established in the last months of World War II. The previously mentioned California Arabian Standard Oil Company which began work in May of 1933 would become Saudi Aramco, one of the largest companies the world has ever seen.
This is just one of the many ripened fruits of this relationship that developed since November 1931. Today Americans, and for the many decades following the work began in May 1933, work inside the Kingdom in highly-skilled professions for salaries that sometimes exceed what can be earned in the United States.
Saudi Arabia stands at the very frontline of issues that currently confront the global community and is partnered with countries that are among the most important in today’s geopolitical order. Under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom finds itself fortunate to have astute, capable, and serious leadership who can offer credibility to our willingness to work directly with our friends in the multitude of issues we collectively face.
Currently we have a world of instability, uncertainty, and in some cases submerged in extreme pain, despair, sadism and even death. Saudi Arabia stands directly alongside our friends, the United States, against the belligerent and revisionist powers who offer a future of the most nefarious manner to humanity.
Saudi Arabia is a capable, willing, and serious partner in the most important issue of our lifetimes, the war against terrorism. At this very moment we have the very best our country can offer, our brave soldiers, fighting inside Yemen for our peace, security and well-being of our citizenry.
Recently a US Navy Guided Missile Destroyer, the USS Mason, was targeted by the very opponent we are currently facing while conducting it’s right to transit internationally recognized waters. Fortunately, nobody was injured or harmed. But this fight where we have committed our very best is against an opponent who represents a collection of interests who not only directly threaten our citizenry, but also the strategic interests of the United States.
They deliberately seek confrontation with the best and bravest of the United States has to offer as well. It has been mentioned in only two cases where the US has a “Special Relationship,” which is with Great Britain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To us this is an honour of the highest magnitude to have the privilege to be considered as such.
We reciprocate such sentiments a thousand-fold to the United States and the American People. As a country we will never forget where we have come from and where we began. We honour that by knowing where we are today, and what the possibilities for our future can be if we give a responsible awareness and respect to our past.
We in Saudi Arabia we look to this “Special Relationship” as one of the greatest legacies King Abdulaziz left us. Saudi Arabia today would not be recognizable to either President Roosevelt or King Abdulaziz. They would not have been able to predict the arc of this partnership they forged on the USS Quincy.
Of all the relationships that the US forged with an eye for the post World War II world in the last days of that brutal conflict hardly anyone would’ve been able to foresee not only how important this one would become, but how close it would be. We Thank You for your sincere friendship which we will never forget.
By Raed al-Saleh
For 24 days I hoped that the people of Ghouta would soon be able to take a breath of fresh air without smelling the stench of death that has taken over every street, every corner, every home for over a month. I hoped that in passing the UN Security Council Resolution 2401, which asked for a 30-day cessation of hostilities, the world's most powerful countries would finally manage to protect civilians in Syria. But yet again the resolution proved to be nothing more than a waste of ink.
The attack on Ghouta - a suburb of the capital Damascus - has been ongoing for over a month. More than 1,300 civilians have been killed and another 4,000 have been injured. All kinds of weapons have been used against civilians: barrel bombs, cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, missiles. Undoubtedly the most vicious strategy has been the use of poisonous gases like Chlorine to force people out of the basements they have been hiding in to then be hit by air attacks.
The onslaught is too intense for the White Helmets to be able to retrieve all the bodies from under the rubble. The targeting of our response efforts and centres has destroyed most of our equipment. One volunteer was killed on Friday when he was targeted as he was running to a rescue center after his ambulance was struck by shelling. He was the 10th White Helmet volunteer killed in this most recent assault. The teams on the ground are living through one long judgment day.
The scenario we witnessed in Aleppo is being repeated in Ghouta: the Syrian regime and Russia are pursuing a scorched-earth warfare strategy with the backing of Iranian and Lebanese militias. They are telling the world that they are opening "humanitarian corridors", but we call those "death corridors". Civilians who try to flee through these routes to regime-controlled areas are still being targeted. Many have been killed. The regime used thousands of fleeing civilians as human shields in front of their tanks to conquer the town of Hammuriyeh - dozens were killed in the process.
Inside Ghouta remain thousands that make up the enclave's resilient civil society: the doctors who work 72-hour shifts with no sleep, the teachers who continue teach in basements and the White Helmets who are still saving lives, many of whom you supported with funds and words over the last few years. These people have been systematically targeted by the regime and its allies for years and they are still facing a grave risk. If they are left unprotected, they will be the first to be arrested or killed by regime forces. We should not doubt the Syrian regime's capability for mass execution or large-scale detention. Indeed this is one of the defining characteristics of Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Today I say to the signatories to the United Nations Security Resolution: your ceasefire failed. Now the very least you can do is guarantee that civilians who wish to travel to other parts of Syrian territory have the right and protection to do so. All those who seek "evacuation" from Ghouta must be protected from systematic killing and mass executions. I hope whatever fragment of your conscience remains might decide to do something to allow civilians leave what the UN has described as "hell on earth".